BRQ | Vantaa Festival

St. John's Church / Helsinki

In the late nineteenth century, St John’s Church, Helsinki, was built on a hill in what were then the outskirts of the city. Designed by Adolf Emil Melander of Stockholm, the church building was completed in 1891. St John’s Church was originally called the New Church, as it was built to accommodate the growing population of Helsinki when Vanha kirkko (the Old Church) and St Nicholas Church (the present Cathedral) proved to be too small. The new church, which was built on the hill where Midsummer fires had traditionally been burned, was dedicated to St John the Baptist.

St John’s Church was built as a basilica with a central nave and two aisles. It is Finland’s largest stone church, and originally seated 3,000 people. In later years, to make the church more flexible, several rows of pews were removed. Today, the church seats just over 2,200 people.

Along the walls of the aisles are a series of wood reliefs made in Italy. They constitute the fourteen stations of the Way of the Cross, showing the Via Dolorosa from Pontius Pilate condemning Jesus to death on the Cross to his being placed in the tomb. During Lent, Via Crucis devotions are regularly held at St John’s Church, giving people the chance to walk the Way of the Cross from station to station, listening to the readings and praying the corresponding prayers.

The coloured window panes, like the light fittings and the altar decorations, were supplied by Josef Leja of Stockholm. The four brass wall sconces closest to the altar carry the symbols of the four Evangelists. Next to the main entrance of the church is a statue of John the Baptist, sculpted in 2003 by Kari Juva.

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